This disturbing dystopian story focuses on many characters that often get overlooked in post-apocolyptic tales and McCammon crafts them each perfectly. As much as I loved the lovable characters and wanted to know what was happening, I couldn’t read fast enough to get back to the ones I hated. As is true with mankind in general, when thrown into hot water, you find out what they’re really made of. Several sub-plots with their own story lines moving inextricably towards the overall story keep you guessing and promising yourself “just one more chapter” and then…
There’s Sister Creep, the old homeless woman who goes under a street/sewer grill to escape the nuclear blast and ends up getting almost boiled alive. She starts out as a contemptible character and ends up shining and really coming to life. There are several sub-plots that are happening and pulling them all inexticably together. Then Roland, the poor adolescent boy who’s parents are into extravagant underground shelters. They happen to be an underground “Nuclear Blast Boot Camp Prep” with their fully paid membership when the whole thing crumples like a pop can under a waffle stomper. His little ugly grows real big real fast and you end up hating but can’t wait to get back to what the hell weirdness he’ll do next. The gentle giant, Josh who’s been exploited by the wrestling industry crosses paths by fate with a little girl named Sue Wanda. Of all the possible twists of fate, this was perfect. Whoo hoo!! Wait till you get to the part where the insane asylum residents with their various deformities and unmedicated issues take over an abandoned K-Mart and play “shopping games” with anyone unfortunate enough to totter towards that “blue-light special”.
There’s some young boys who do what they need to do to stay alive and a few of them develop some true integrity that may not have flourished outside of this disaster that pulls the best from the worst and vice versa. There’s more! The president, a prostitute, some evil thing pulling himself around in a child’s wagon…you just gotta read it.
It’s like Stephen King multiplied by Justin Cronan. Loved this book!! I’ve read it 3 times over the last 25 years or so. I thought it was one of McCammon’s best!!